Essay about William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Essay about William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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William Shakespeare's Hamlet Hamlet was written around the year 1600 in the final years of the
reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who had been the monarch of England for
more than forty years and was then in her late sixties. The prospect
of Elizabeth’s death and the question of who would succeed her was a
subject of grave anxiety at the time, since Elizabeth had no children,
and the only person with a legitimate royal claim, James of Scotland,
was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and therefore represented a
political faction to which Elizabeth was opposed. (When Elizabeth died
in 1603, James did inherit the throne, becoming King James I.)

It is no surprise, then, that many of Shakespeare’s plays from this
period, including Hamlet, concern transfers of power from one monarch
to the next. These plays focus particularly on the uncertainties,
betrayals, and upheavals that accompany such shifts in power, and the
general sense of anxiety and fear that surround them. The situation
Shakespeare presents at the beginning of Hamlet is that a strong and
beloved king has died, and the throne has been inherited not by his
son, as we might expect, but by his brother. Still grieving the old
king, no one knows yet what to expect from the new one, and the guards
outside the castle are fearful and suspicious.

The supernatural appearance of the ghost on a chilling, misty night
outside Elsinore Castle indicates immediately that something is wrong
in Denmark. The ghost se...


... middle of paper ...


...dent upon
the men in her life. Hamlet’s most famous comment about Gertrude is
his furious condemnation of women in general: “Frailty, thy name is
woman!” (I.ii.146). This comment is as much indicative of Hamlet’s
agonized state of mind as of anything else, but to a great extent
Gertrude does seem morally frail. She never exhibits the ability to
think critically about her situation, but seems merely to move
instinctively toward seemingly safe choices, as when she immediately
runs to Claudius after her confrontation with Hamlet. She is at her
best in social situations (I.ii and V.ii), when her natural grace and
charm seem to indicate a rich, rounded personality. At times it seems
that her grace and charm are her only characteristics, and her
reliance on men appears to be her sole way of capitalizing on her
abilities.

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